Neh Meh, MA SID/COEX'24 headshot

Neh Meh, MA SID/COEX’24

Most graduate students are busy finishing their classes, dealing with projects, and preparing for graduation. Most importantly, many of our graduate students are preparing the requirement that essentially allows them to walk in the graduation ceremony and obtain their degree: their a capstone project. Many of the graduate programs at Heller also require students to do an internship, practicum, field research, or thesis paper. The good thing is that the Executive Director of the Global Programs at Heller is very flexible with whatever you choose, making our graduate life much easier. After completing the capstone project, students must present it in person or virtually.

However, before we jump to talking about presenting the capstone project, you should know that students must take many different steps before they’re ready to present their capstone project, and that those steps could vary for each student. As a dual degree student majoring in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence and Sustainable International Development, I will share my experiences and journey in how and why I chose to do what I did and what I learned from it. It was during my second semester in graduate school, around February 2022 that I started thinking about different internships for my practicum. An ideal timeline is like this: completing an internship or any project during the summer and writing a report about my internship experiences in the fall semester. So, I started thinking about different organizations, researching their missions and visions to see if they aligned with my interest, and began sorting through the opportunities. Then, I thought of the Jesuit Refugee Service, a non-profit organization in Thailand that serves refugees. I remember the organization’s involvement in refugee education, especially for the Karenni (if you have not heard about Karenni, it is an ethnic group from Myanmar). I contacted the organization’s director and shared my background and interest. He then asked for my resume, and after that, he agreed to let me work with the organization over the summer on Peace and Reconciliation’s peacebuilding project. The Jesuit Refugee Service’s peacebuilding essentially focuses on rebuilding relationships and building the capacity to face difficulties.

I spent three months in Thailand researching the peacebuilding project and organized a training centered on peacebuilding through education. I utilized education to build peace by educating the Karenni and Karenni refugees about ways to tackle conflicts and skills that enable them to create the right relationships between themselves. While interning with JRS, I completed my peacebuilding project called “Peacebuilding through Education”. After completing my three-month project, I returned to Heller to continue my Sustainable International Development degree. As a SIDCO, I had the option to present in May; however, since my project was funded by the peace award from Marice Kapf Hahn, I had to present my completed project before the year ended.

I’ll admit that this timeline was less than ideal and at times I felt rushed, or felt like did not have enough time to put everything together, since I was also working on writing the report/thesis paper. However, one very helpful thing for me was to have a daily schedule planned out every week. For example, I set aside 30 minutes on Sunday to plan for the week, including what I wanted to accomplish each day. As a result, I managed to finish both the thesis paper and presentation in two months! Looking back, it was a wild ride. I could not believe I had managed to complete a 40-page of report/thesis paper and 15 slides of the presentation within two months, but the experience was worth it. I also learned to manage my stress and time and prioritize what’s important and not important.

If you thought that was a lot, remember that I still had to present the presentation I had prepared. For the actual presentation, you only need to put together seven Powerpoint slides, present for ten minutes, and give ten minutes for a question and answer session. I was very nervous about my presentation, but a little practice before the actual presentation was very helpful, so my advice is to practice presenting the day before the actual presentation.

Now that I finished my capstone project, I feel like a heavy weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I am excited to finish up my last semester and graduate!